QUEER VOICES

Ian McKellen Looks Back On His Closeted Gay Youth In New Short Film

"There was nobody who was out ― nobody," he recalled.

Ian McKellen opened up about the challenges of growing up gay in a poignant short film. 

The 77-year-old actor, who can currently be seen as Cogsworth in Disney’s live-action “Beauty and the Beast” reboot, reflected on his early struggles to filmmaker Joe Stephenson in the four-minute clip, which can be viewed above. The film is featured at London’s Tate Britain museum as part of its “Queer British Art 1861-1967” exhibit, which opened Wednesday.  

McKellen said that when he was growing up, “gay people, homosexuals, conducted their lives as secretly as possible. There was nobody who was out ― nobody.” When family members would ask him about girlfriends, the actor said he would “blush inwardly,” because he “didn’t want one.” 

“When my own attraction to other boys was taking place, it seemed very natural to me. ... I was aware that it didn’t really fit in with what everybody else had been doing,” McKellen said.

In the end, he even credited his sexuality with his decision to pursue a career in acting. “I think one of the reasons I was happy to become a professional actor was that I suspected I would meet some gay people. It was an easy way to do that,” he said.  

The “Lord of the Rings” star, who came out in 1988 in a BBC Radio interview, said he didn’t feel driven to be active in the fight for LGBTQ equality at first. All of that’s changed in recent years, of course, because he “doesn’t want today’s children to not enjoy their sexuality.” 

“It’s central to what you are,” he said.

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